Proper planning ahead of a c-section can save you a lot of discomfort. Here are my tips for creating a supportive c-section recovery kit and preparing for a more comfortable recovery.
Whether you’re opting for a c-section or it’s your only option, having proper c-section recovery essentials on-hand will help to make your experience more comfortable and less stressful.
To help you better prepare for your c-section, I’m not only sharing everything I used during my c-section recovery but also what I wished I had on hand.
- A gentle c-section birth plan
- How painful was the c-section?
- Staying comfortable after a c-section
- Breastfeeding and your c-section recovery
- C-section recovery kit for the hospital
- C-section recovery kit for the home
- What to expect: your c-section wound
- The ultimate c-section recovery kit list
- Final thoughts on c-sections and recovery
- Shop for c-section essentials
Opting for a gentle c-section birth plan
I had planned for a vaginal birth at a birthing center, but, like most babies, my baby had other plans.
The safest option for my birth was a c-section, so I wanted to ensure that my experience felt as close to a vaginal birth as possible. To help achieve this goal, I researched gentle cesarian births to make my c-section feel more like a birth and less like an operation.
I highly recommend creating a birth plan for your c-section and communicating what’s most vital to you with your doctor.
Also, you can read why I ended up having a c-section in my birth story.
How painful was the c-section?
While I can only speak from my experience, I was pleasantly surprised with the c-section process. The procedure itself was painless (there’s an epidural to help with any discomfort) and relatively quick.
Unless something goes wrong with mom or baby, you are fully alert and conscious during the surgery with only an epidural for pain and some anti-nausea medicine in your IV.
I was most nervous about the epidural. Thankfully, I had a fantastic anesthesiologist on my team, and I experienced only a slight burning feeling when the needle went in.
Also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but you meet your baby within the first ten minutes or so of the procedure. Once he was out and on my chest for skin-to-skin, it was a matter of cleaning up and stitching me back together.
Altogether, my “gentle c-section” lasted around 45 minutes.
Tips for staying comfortable after a c-section
The hospital I delivered in had moms recover in the same room we’d sleep in for two nights. I liked that because I was exhausted and wanted to stay put.
I felt pretty good until the epidural started to wear off later that evening. I did my best to stay ahead of my pain by taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol as prescribed by my nurse before the pain became intense.
It’s essential to stay ahead of your pain and take medications as instructed to help your body heal and recover as quickly as possible. I ended up not needing any prescription-grade pain medications throughout my entire recovery, but there’s no shame in asking for what you need to feel comfortable.
The hospital bed was very comfortable and adjustable, so I could keep my back propped up and supported, relieving unnecessary pressure on my abdomen.
Also, inflatable boots were used during my surgery and recovery to help minimize the risk of blood clots. They were annoying at times but overall helped keep swelling to a minimum.
Just a heads up, as with any epidural, you will have a catheter placed. Don’t be scared – your doctor or nurse will insert it after your epidural has started working, and the removal is a quick pinch. The plus side is that you don’t have to get up to pee every few hours.
Pro tip: you will have to “prove” your bladder can function without the catheter after it’s removed. This can be tricky for some. To help, put a drop of peppermint essential oil (the brand I use) in the toilet to help to relax your bladder enough so you can urinate without assistance.
The peppermint trick saved me from getting another catheter inserted. It’s a strange feeling, but your bladder has to learn how to work again, and you can’t feel it filling up with urine like you usually can.
Helpful tips for keeping comfortable after your c-section:
- Have protein drinks (I loved these) to sip on when your nurse clears you to eat
- Take pain medicine before you feel discomfort to help speed recovery
- Stand up as soon as you can with the help of your nurse
- Wiggle your toes periodically while lying in bed
- Keep a large water bottle filled with ice water nearby
- Use your arms to sit up instead of your abdomen
- When getting back in bed, sit as close to the crease of the bed as possible and swing your legs up and over to avoid straining your core
- Keep a toiletry bag on your table with chapstick, lotion, and whatever else you need close by
Breastfeeding and your c-section recovery
Learning how to breastfeed can be tricky for new moms, but breastfeeding can feel even more difficult when you add in recovery from a c-section. Try your best to remain patient with yourself and your new baby – you’re both learning and adjusting to an entirely new life!
Should you decide to breastfeed, be sure to ask your nurse and hospital-provided lactation consultant for their assistance. They will provide hands-on support and advice to help ensure latching and nursing are as enjoyable as possible.
During my c-section recovery, I found that the football hold and side-lying position (once at home) was the most comfortable while nursing. Make sure to use pillows to help position the baby and alleviate pressure off of your abdomen.
Read next: Breastfeeding Must-Haves for Nursing Moms
C-section recovery kit for the hospital
You’re going to need different care items at the hospital than you will at home.
Keep in mind; the hospital will provide pads, mesh underwear, pain medicine, stool softeners, and other essentials, so I’m not including these on your hospital list but have added them to your at-home list.
Items to pack in your hospital c-section recovery kit:
- A nursing gown with back buttons (I bought this one and loved how soft it was)
- High-protein snacks that are easy to eat
- A comfortable nursing bra (I brought two of these to the hospital)
- A pair of slippers (it’s too hard to lean over and put on socks)
- Peppermint oil for encouraging a shy bladder
- A large water bottle with an easy-to-drink lid
C-section recovery kit for the home
Even after you leave the hospital, there are some essential items I’d recommend having on-hand at home to help make you as comfortable as possible.
Note: You will have vaginal bleeding after a c-section.
Yes, although you didn’t give birth vaginally, your body still has a large wound inside of your uterus where your placenta was once attached.
As this wound heals and your body works its magic, you will bleed like a medium period. This bleeding isn’t as usually heavy or as long as a vaginal delivery – a lot of the blood was removed during the c-section – it still happens.
Make sure to have these items at home during your c-section recovery:
- Mesh underwear (I lived in these)
- Overnight pads (these are non-toxic and my favorite)
- Panty liners (for the days when bleeding slows but isn’t entirely gone)
- A belly binder once your doctor gives you the clear (I picked this one)
- Supportive c-section underwear (these are the best I’ve found)
- Loose, drapey pants with a thick waistband (think gaucho style)
- More high-protein snacks (I lived on these during the early days of recovery)
- Lots and lots of pillows to help support your back
Read Next: Postpartum Self-Care Tips for New Moms
What to expect with your c-section wound
Your wound will be closed with either stitches or staples (I had staples) and covered with thick gauze and a waterproof covering for the first few days.
Once you take off your gauze, your doctor will need to remove your sutures.
Small butterfly bandages (or something similar) will be applied vertically to your wound to help support the delicate area and remind you that you just had major surgery. These will typically fall off on their own in a week or so.
I was pretty surprised to hear that you don’t need to apply anything special to the wound. It’s best just to let it be and allow your body to do its thing to heal.
If you’re wondering, my scar is about five inches wide and seven or so inches below my belly button. It’s a proud reminder of what my body sacrificed to bring our son into this world.
Your ultimate c-section recovery kit list
I’ve taken the essential items from the hospital and home c-section recovery kit lists and created one master must-have c-section recovery list. I hope this helps, mama!
1. Comfortable nursing gown
Having a super-soft gown to change into will feel like you hit the jackpot – trust me. I opted for this gown because it has snaps down the back, so you don’t have to lift your hands over your head to get dressed (because that hurts!).
Bonus: it has easy-access snaps at each shoulder if you’re nursing.
2. Easy-access nursing bra
If you decide to breastfeed, having a comfy and easy-access nursing bra is an absolute must. I chose this one by Kindred Bravely because of the super-soft terry material.
3. A pack of mesh underwear
In addition to what the hospital sends you home with, I suggest having a pack of these mesh underwear from FridaMom. Not only are they more comfortable than the ones from the hospital, but the waistband is high enough not to bother your c-section wound.
4. Non-toxic pads and pantyliners
You do bleed after a c-section, but not as much as a vaginal delivery. Opt for non-toxic pads and pantyliners, if possible. The fewer harmful chemicals your body has to process during recovery, the better.
FYI: you’ll need these two options in addition to the big hospital pads.
5. A belly support band/binder
After a few days, you may feel the desire for some additional abdomen support. That’s where a belly support band can help – make sure to speak with your OB before using one.
6. Supportive recovery underwear
These c-section recovery undies are the most comfortable and supportive I’ve found. It’s all about keeping seams off of your wound.
7. Loose clothing with thick waistbands
Like I mentioned above, it’s essential to pick clothing that doesn’t irritate your wound. In the recent days after delivery, opt for looser clothing with a thick waistband to support your abdomen and keep your sutures happy.
8. A pair of easy slip-on slippers
As you’ll quickly learn, it’s very difficult (impossible) to bend over in the early days. Having a cozy pair of slippers to slip on both in the hospital and at home is essential.
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My final thoughts on c-sections and recovery
As you prepare for your c-section, keep in mind that every procedure is different, but they all have the same goal: a healthy mom and baby.
If, at any point, something about your procedure seems unclear or confusing, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. You must be your advocate while in (and out of!) the hospital.
Make sure to discuss your c-section birth plan with your partner and care team before your procedure (if possible) to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Have your c-section recovery kit ready to go at all times, and do your best to take deep breaths. I promise you’ve got this!
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